The World’s Richest Athletes

Source: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

Amid the growing split in the golf world, Tiger Woods turned down a contract worth $700-$800 million to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series, according to its CEO, Greg Norman. Woods has been an ardent supporter of the existing PGA Tour, as it tries to fend off competition from the upstart LIV.

Even though Woods did not take the payout, he is still one of the highest-earning athletes in the world, taking home over $68 million over the last year. Nearly all of his income came via endorsements as he works his way back to fitness after a 2021 car accident. Still, there are over a dozen other athletes who earned more than the golf legend. 

To determine the world’s richest athletes, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on earnings from some of the world’s most high-profile athletes from Forbes. Earnings are from May 2021 to May 2022. On-the-field income includes salary prize money and bonuses, while off-the-field income includes endorsements, licensing fees, appearances, and cash returns from investments. Supplemental information came from the Sports Reference family of sites, and is accurate as of Aug. 1, 2022. An athlete’s country was determined to be the one they represent in international competitions.

The 50 highest paid athletes in the world hail from 15 different countries, though the vast majority (35) are American. These American athletes primarily play in domestic sports leagues like the NBA, NFL, and MLB, though a few golfers and a tennis player cracked the list as well.

The 50 highest paid athletes in the world earned almost $3 billion combined over the past year. NBA and NFL players make up the majority of the list, with more than 30 players earning over $37 million between the two leagues. In other sports like golf, soccer, auto racing, and boxing, only the very top earners were able to make the list. (It’s worth noting, though, how much the best paid athletes paid in taxes.)

It is worth noting that some of the athletes’ on-field earnings are somewhat inflated. Teams often front-load or back-load big contracts, paying players huge sums to skirt the salary cap. Some of the players on this list made tens of millions of dollars over the last year, despite being injured or playing poorly, as they were at the end of massive contracts. These are the most overpaid athletes in pro sports.

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